Triangle Business Journal names Dean J. Rich Leonard among 2021 CEOs of the Year

Photo of Law Dean J. Rich Leonard

RALEIGH — Campbell Law Dean J. Rich Leonard is among the Triangle Business Journal’s 2021 CEO of the Year and C-suite Award winners.

The Triangle’s business community came together the evening of Sept. 22 to honor the award winners during a dinner and presentation that was held at The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary. The event highlighted the work of 21 local executives who have led their companies through challenges, including a global pandemic, and triumphs during the past year.

The winners represented a broad group of individuals whose community impact extends well beyond the board room.

The other winners are Daniel Agresta, APC Towes LLC; DeLynn Alexander, Aria Financial Services; Tom Antoine, J.D. Beam Inc.; Michele Atchison, TrialCard; Brandon Baker, First Tee – Triangle; Creighton Blackwell, Coastal Credit Union; Dr. Wesley Burks, UNC Health; Johnny Chappell, Chappell; Mike Derstine, Enact Mortgage Insurance; Van Isley, Professional Builders Supply; Byron Kirkland, Smith Anderson; Scott Leviton, Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina; Anna Lynch, Lynch Mykins; James Metcalf, Cornerstone Building Brands; Brian Reid, TowneBank Triangle; Chandler Rose, ProVantage Corporate Solutions, Drew Schiller, Validic; David Spitz, Channel Advisor; Willy Stewart, Stewart; and Dorsey Tobias, Nash UNC Health Care.

You can watch a video of Leonard’s acceptance speech at this link. The following bio is excerpted from the TBJ.

Campbell Law Dean J. Rich Leonard

Category: Chief executive officer

Size of Company: 1-249 employees

Winner: J. Rich Leonard

Company: Campbell Law School

Title: Dean

City of Birth: Lexington, North Carolina

Family: Wife, Dr. Whitney Cain; five children

Education: B.A., sociology and M.Ed., UNC-Chapel Hill; J.D., Yale University

Company Description: Campbell Law School

How have you contributed to the organization’s growth? In addition to having responsibility for the day-to-day operation of a $22 million enterprise, I am the chief spokesperson, public voice and fundraiser for the school. I also lead in looking at future initiatives for the school.

What were your greatest professional achievements in the past year? We found the resources for and started two new clinics, the Gailor Family Law Litigation Clinic that will provide pro bono family law services to citizens, and the the Shipman & Wright Sports Law Clinic that will help young athletes negotiate the new terrain of selling their name, image and likeness.

What’s the greatest obstacle or challenge you’ve faced in your career? Running an academic institution in a pandemic. I am proud that we are one of the few law schools that stayed in seat for all of last year, but it took daily analysis, firm decision-making, and the ability to pivot quickly as circumstances changed.

What civic organizations are you involved with and how do you serve them? I have just finished my term as chair of the General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I also just concluded two terms as a diocesan trustee for the Episcopal Church of North Carolina. I am also one of 10 deans overseeing the work of the Law School Police Practices Consortium.

Who do you consider to be your mentor and why? Judge Franklin T. Dupree, Jr., the legendary federal judge in Raleigh, who gave me my first job and was my biggest supporter during his lifetime.

Who would you most like to invite to a business lunch? Tim Sweeney of Epic Games and Todd Olson of Pendo. I’d like to understand better their spectacular and rapid success.

What’s a key lesson you’ve learned along the way? Give credit for success to others, take the blame for mistakes.

What do you do to relax? I swim at least 1,000 meters three or four times a week with my two best friends, and I garden.


Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion, and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. Among its accolades, the school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 4,500 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. In 2021, Campbell Law is celebrating 45 years of graduating legal leaders and 12 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.